The Jazzcat

Charles Lloyd at Royce Hall!

by on Nov.20, 2004, under News



The night begins with darkness. Royce Hall

is dark and completely quiet as a screen descends from the ceiling and

a film precedes the performance. The image of water and light appears

superimposed over someone playing piano. Soon you begin to realize that

this is a film of two musical brothers who are masters of the music;

Charles Lloyd and Billy Higgins.


Isolated in what looked to be a lovely home in

serene surroundings, Charles and Billy just make music together. It was

a conversation that needed no plans just the two spirits locked into a

higher plane to create beautiful spiritual music with influences from

the east. When you watched the two multi-talented musicians play

together on film, Charles plays tambourine and flute at the same time

while Billy plays the Kalimba and chants in one of the many dialects

that he was so fluent in. Billy, as you know, always sports a huge

kidlike smile. He could be playing a solo and he would acknowledge you

and smile. You would feel that one on one connection with him even

though, at the same time, his rhythm is impeccable and he is not

missing a beat. That smile was one of his trademarks and one that we

who have loved him and his music will always remember.


When Charles refers to Billy he calls him Master

Higgins. It is deliberate, I believe, for two reasons. First, that is

how Charles will always remember him and his approach to music and

second to let it be known to the world, the media and anyone else who

recalls upon Billy to realize recognize and respect the fact that this

man was a genius and a true master of music. As the film ended the

darkness persisted but, in the sole spotlight, appeared Charles in the

prayer position giving back the love that he just received from the

appreciation of the documentary on him and Master Higgins.


Wasting no time, Charles goes to the piano and

starts playing a wonderful interlude. It is like being present to a

private melodic prayer like conversation between himself and the

ever-present spirit of Master Higgins. Zakir Hussain, a world famous

tabla virtuoso and Eric Harland, the top of the food chain when it

comes to young brilliant drummers, both take their respective places

with their instruments. Eric goes over to the piano and starts to play

the strings as Charles continues on the keys. Then, like a track star

passes on his baton, Eric takes over on piano and Charles moves to

shakers as Zakir joins in with long toned chants and percussion. I kid

you not, as Zakir was playing, the incense that burned in the spotlight

looked like him connecting with the spirits. The trio create a theme

that is hauntingly beautiful and the audience is still, mesmerized by

its lovely eastern ritualistic sounding influences. Eric and Zakir also

engage in a gentlemen’s battle of percussive endeavors, trading and

simultaneously paralleling each other with speed, creativity and

precision timing. They also had some vocal percussion exchanges that

reminded me of Andy Kaufman’s character Latka, on the old television

show, “Taxi”, only on 78 speedJ
















Charles is an eccentric iconoclastic mad creative

musical super hero! His apparel consists of a cap, shades and long

coat. The Jazz Matrix! The Oracle of music, peace, love

and understanding. He is known for not only his brilliance as a

thinker, a philosopher, his social awareness and genius as a musician

but, he and Monk are the only cats who wear the caps that they do and

it somehow symbolizes their uniqueness in a way that is unusually

different. It is like the powers of the universe have knighted these

gentlemen as the world court’s beacons of creative intelligence, who

were sent down from above to bestow the planet with their message of

knowledge, love and extraordinary musical talent. Charles has so much

to say mentally that the English language does not allow him to express

all of his thoughts. His mind is like a vast information super highway

moving at light speed with way too much information for the ordinary

person. So, in order to communicate with the masses, he expresses

himself in beautiful musical compositions and you must listen and get

the message in the music.


When you are engaged in listening, you feel like

it is only you, the musicians and the music. You forget about the fact

that you are in Royce Hall with the other thousand or so people. The

music is that compelling. These guys don’t play music they build

audible creations that are special and different each time they are

played. What we experienced last night at Royce Hall can never be

experienced again. That magic lives within us and the next time they

play, it will be a new magic.


Tonight’s performance was like three concerts in

one with the band morphing taking on new dimensions and different

directions. First the trio played, and then Eric, in a duet with

Charles on Tenor, accompanied the poet and almighty powerful thunderous

voice of Kamau Daooud, the pin on the map that points to “The World

Stage”. As Kamau finishes, blessing us with the words to connect all

humanity as one, Geri Allen and Ruben Rogers join in and finish out the

concert playing with the dynamic straight ahead sound of their quartet.

Geri complements so perfectly and I have often heard Charles compliment

her for this endearing quality. Ruben is just one of the most fluid,

lyrical and sought after bass players in the business. The brotha just

kills each solo like doing the dozens leaving the other person

speechless in defeat. Throughout the concert, Charles played piano,

shakers, flute, soprano, tenor and alto. You feel the roots, soil and

voices that cry out from indigenous lands through this music. I bet if

you potted some sunflower seeds onstage before the performance, we

would be able to watch those flowers grow and come to life.


One of the most brilliant performances of music I

have experienced in quite some time and you know I see a lot of music!

Charles now has a new website as well at

LeRoy Downs

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